The Garret Tree
Monday, September 19, 2005
  CBC 93: The ratification rag

Tod Maffin reported tonight what has been rumoured on the picket line for some days, that if there is a settlement, management won't follow the usual practice, if a union recommends ratification, of opening the doors and letting people back to work. Instead they are going to wait for the actual ratification vote.

There are two theories about this move.

The first might be called "The Prince of Darkness" scenario, after what CBC Drone is calling IR boss George Smith, the ultimate hardliner, who is determined to inflict as much damage as possible on the Canadian Media Guild and that refusing to open the doors would just be another form of punishment for the peasants who refuse to obey the dictates of their betters.

But there is now a second scenario apparently circulating among some middle managers inside the TBC who are afraid that the damage to the CBC is become irreversible. This picks up on the idea that keeps popping up (it's not just me that's saying it) that senior management expected the production side of the CMG to fold within the planned three or so weeks.

What is happening now is a sort of an extension of the weak CMG theory that has circulated inside for some years. The idea was that the CMG would dilute the more radical tech union and make agreement easy. Now apparently management's spies are reporting an increasing and alarming radicalization among some CMG members. There is fear that if there is a weak agreement, that it would actually be rejected by the membership and, if we're let back in, who knows what would happen then.*

My source to the inside puts it this way: Management spies are reporting that some Guild members are now angry over lost pay and the humiliation of lockout. There's a growing preference among some for noisier, and less decorous demos and even a harder line in negotiations. There is lots of talk on the line that is seeping back inside that the new militancy is unlikely to evaporate quickly after a settlement. The commraderie of the line--mentioned by all visitors to the Toronto dispute ground---could spawn a new generation of union activists. That's a dismal scenario for management to contemplate.

I am getting the same feeling. But I am also getting the impression that this not the traditional union solidarity, since as other bloggers have reported, many CMG members are wary and cynical of the "sister and brother" talk. What George Smith and the triumvirate have underestimated in my view, is that thing I call vocation, whether it is a commitment to public broadcasting as an ideal or simply a commitment to good quality journalism. Despite some grumbling in this crucial week, I have only seen a minor and expected dip in morale on the line.

What is significant is that despite the early rumours of talent raids and defections, there have, so far, been no major defections in the CMG ranks. And I have talked to some of those people and they all tell me they're "hanging in."

Most people I have talked to see the fight as the battle to preserve public broadcasting and quality journalism in this country. That's why so far instead of a weak group of aging job-for-life boomers pressing the CMG to settle, you have across the generations a message to stand firm.

That means that George Smith's bricks and mortar industrial relations scenario has failed completely and that calls into question his ability to do the job.

The third week: I reported earlier that a news manager had expressed fears that CBC News could survive just three more weeks of lockout before the bleeding became life threatening. This is the now the third week since the manager said that.
And as for the bleeding, word from inside the TBC that the rosy figures from the first couple of weeks of the lockout are long gone. Word is the Terry Fox special attracted only 222,000; while the National on the main net at 10 pm, which averaged 750,000-800,000 pre lockout, has plunged down to less than 300,000 on some evenings...while CTV is getting better numbers each night.

*Rejecting a contract: I began writing my first book when I was laid off from CBC in the 1984 cutbacks. As well as working on the CBC's first new media project, I had been writing radio plays and so was a member of ACTRA. When I began working on the book, I supported myself by working as a professional extra (while many actors did not want to work as extras other ACTRA membes such as writers and musicians did). During the ACTRA negotiations with the Independent Producers Association in the late 80s, ACTRA sold out the extras. To their surprise, the contract was overwhelmingly rejected by the membership and they had to go back to the table, where an agreement was reached that did meet the concerns of the ACTRA members who worked as extras and was quickly ratified.

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I write in a renovated garret in my house in a part of Toronto, Canada, called "The Pocket." The blog is named for a tree can be seen outside the window of my garret.

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Name: Robin Rowland
Location: Toronto, Canada

I'm a Toronto-based writer, photographer, web producer, television producer, journalist and teacher. I'm author of five books, the latest A River Kwai Story: The Sonkrai Tribunal. The Garret tree is my blog on the writing life including my progress on my next book (which will be announced here some time in the coming months) My second blog, the Wampo, Nieke and Sonkrai follows the slow progress of my freelanced model railway based on my research on the Burma Thailand Railway (which is why it isn't updated that often) The Creative Guide to Research, based on my book published in 2000 is basically an archive of news, information and hints for both the online and the shoe-leather" researcher. (Google has taken over everything but there are still good hints there)

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